by Author Zoe Kilb

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Youth Music Fund B refresh – what’s changed and why? (Expression of Interest stage now closed)

Our refreshed Fund B programme opens for applications on Friday 04 September 2020 on our grants portal. Over the last eight months we have been busy reviewing our grants programme; responding to feedback from grantholders and applicants, reflecting on our priorities and thinking about how we can ensure that our funding programmes are supporting our musical inclusion goals. The two key drivers of the review process have been accessibility and youth voice. We want our grants process to be accessible to a wide variety of organisations and individuals, and we want to ensure that the ultimate beneficiaries of our work, children and young people, are at the centre of our organisation.

You may already have seen several changes within our grants programme and across our organisation, for example, the recent launch of our Access Fund which supports Disabled people to submit applications to Youth Music. We’ve also created a range of new and paid opportunities for young people to get involved in our work, as creators, communicators and decision makers. There will be more changes to come, but the next phase in our refresh is our Fund B programme.

The Fund B refresh

Fund B offers grants of between £30,001 and £200,000 to organisations for programmes lasting at least 18 months. Grantholders and applicants have told us that they want a more straight forward, speedier, and lighter touch process. They also want us to be clearer about our funding priorities, clearer about what we want to see in an application and clear about how we make our decisions. Therefore, we have focussed on speeding up our decision-making processes, reducing the amount of time applicants spend writing applications and completing other grant requirements and providing more detail about how we make decisions.

Changes to the application process

The key change those of you familiar with our ‘old’ Fund B application process will notice is that we have introduced an Expression of Interest stage into the application process. Previously Fund B was a two-stage process, with applicants asked to complete substantial application forms at both stages.  Our refreshed programme remains a two-stage process, but we have replaced the stage-one application form with a short Expression of Interest form. This new form is much quicker to complete with less questions and shorter answers required. Around 60-70% of applicants will be invited through to complete a more detailed application form at Stage two where they will be asked to provide more detailed information about their project.

This shorter, more concise Expression of Interest form means that applicants should spend less time working up detailed proposals that may or may not be funded, and it also means that Youth Music can carry out a speedier assessment process and get our funding decisions to applicants sooner.  On the flip side it does mean that our success rate at stage two – currently around 90% - is likely to decrease. 

Quicker Decision times

Previously it was three months before applicants found out if their Stage one application had been invited through to Stage two, and then another three months to find out whether or not they had been awarded funding. If you were unsuccessful it could be up six months before you could start another Fund B application. A speedier assessment process means the whole two-stage process now only takes four to five months, but it also means we can now run more funding rounds per year. So if you are rejected at either stage of the process, it should only be around three months before there is an opportunity to submit a new Expression of Interest form.

The Assessment Process

All Expression of Interest forms will be assessed by Youth Music against four focused criteria.  

1. Eligibility: Does your programme and your organisation meet our eligibility criteria?
2. Funding Priorities: Is your programme  a good match for our funding priorities? 
3. Working with children and young people facing barriers: Are you planning to work with children or young people facing barriers and have they been involved in programme design?
4. Track Record: Is your organisation well placed to deliver this work e.g. do you have a track record delivering this work and/or working with the target groups?

In summary we’re looking for programmes that are eligible and a good match for our funding, are working with children and young people facing barriers and have clearly involved them in designing the programme and that will be delivered by an experienced organisation who is well placed to make the programme a success.  At Expression of Interest stage we are not assessing detailed budgets, outcomes or evaluation plans and we do not assess whether or not you have covered every piece of  Fund B programme criteria– this comes in at the second stage.

At the second stage, where applicants submit a longer application form, our assessment goes into more of the detail of your programme. For example you will be asked to tell us about the number of sessions you will be delivering, answer more specific questions about aspects of your delivery plan, and provide a full budget breakdown, a copy of your accounts and letters of support from your project partners. For full details please see our applicant guidance (a link to this content will be published soon).

We will also continue to carry out a portfolio-balancing process at both stages. This process reviews the types of work being proposed, where it will take place and the organisations who have applied. The majority of applications we receive are fundable, so the portfolio balancing process helps us prioritise our decision-making. We try to balance national, regional and local needs to fund a diverse portfolio of organisations that promotes a healthy infrastructure for children and young people’s music.

This means that competition for funding will be higher, and therefore the success rate lower in regions and priority areas where we regularly receive a high number of applications from and Youth Music has historically invested more. We will aim to provide information about levels of competition, across our regions and priority areas.

Assessing Track Record

We understand that it can be frustrating to keep repeating information in application forms that funders should already have access to or is easily accessible elsewhere. To support this, at both stages of the Fund B process there are now opportunities for applicants to provide web links and attach existing documents that demonstrate their organisation’s track record and experience, for example this could be a project website,  a  digital learning resource, press coverage or the executive summary of a report. Previous and existing grantholders can also list relevant past Youth Music grants, which we will review on our system, and so there is no need to detail the content of these grants. And as part of the assessment process Youth Music will look at websites, and social media accounts to help us get a more rounded picture of who an organisation is, their experience and the type of work they do. However it’s still important that applicants tell us what they have learnt from previous projects and activities, so though they do not need to give us detail about the activities delivered,  they should explain how the learning from these previous grants has shaped the new application. 

A more streamlined approach to outcomes and evaluation

Youth Music continues to be an outcomes-based funder. Outcomes are the changes in skills, knowledge, or behaviours that you want to happen as a result of your project. These may be positive changes for young people, the workforce, your organisation, or the wider sector. We want to see projects that have outcomes that are based on need, and activity plans that are designed around achieving these outcomes. Ongoing reflection and evaluation should be embedded in a project. However, we recognise that data collection and evaluation are time-consuming processes, especially if you are reporting to multiple funders. So, our priority has been to reduce the administrative burden of our evaluation requirements on organisations, whilst not underestimating the vital role evaluation plays in shaping a successful and impactful project.

Therefore, we have reduced the number of outcomes Fund B grantholders are required to set and report on from five to three. And we are working with our Research and Evaluation team to produce more user-friendly and accessible resources to support grantholders and applicants to write, monitor and evaluate progress towards their outcomes. We are also reviewing our reporting requirements, with the aim to take a more accessible approach which recognises the different needs of organisations. More detail will be coming on this later in the year, but we aim to have a smoother process, that enables grantholders to produce evaluations that are best suited to their need, whilst also making sure Youth Music can continue to demonstrate the impact of our work and collect the information we need for our own funders and supporters.

Further information

You can download the new Fund B guidance here on the network. 
Make sure you are signed up to the Youth Music newsletter and that you follow @youthmusicnet to stay up to date. Alongside the guidance we are creating useful resources including case studies of successful Fund B applicants and a Frequently Asked Questions documents, all designed to make the application process as smooth and as user-friendly as possible.

Fund B Round 12 opens for applications on Friday 04 September and closes for applications at 5pm on Friday 02 October.  Our Grants & Learning team are available to answer questions on or 020 7902 1060.